The economic argument for more bicycle parking

The economic argument for more bicycle parking

To the editor:

Through the Alexandria Bicycle Pedestrian Advisory Committee, I learned that bike parking in the Union Street study is being de-emphasized. As it stands, there is little bicycle parking at the foot of King Street, so merchants might not know that they are missing out on customers who get around by bike. After all, if you aren’t getting our dollars now, how can you know that you could get them tomorrow if you add good, visible bike parking?

It’s understandable that the merchants might not know, so here’s a cyclist’s perspective of the waterfront. The corner of King and Union streets is a natural place to launch a bike ride. It’s at a major bike intersection in Alexandria; there’s coffee and ice cream (the twin vices of cyclists); plus a place to grab a good and fastish meal and some more water if you make it the mid-point of your ride.

The only thing is, while your cycling buddies are gathering — or eating or putting too much caffeine in their bodies — you need a safe, public place to stow your bike.

And then there’s the excess capacity. Cyclists come to your business at times of excess capacity. We start our rides early — to the point where we’re often the only people buying coffee at the shop. When we buy water, we don’t hang out. We give you money and then leave, giving the capacity back to your business. So, we are not competing with other customers (taking you over capacity); we remove a bottleneck to overall capacity (parking); and the businesses sit at a natural spot to attract the silly-looking, Lycra-clad crowd (we know we look silly, but our money is just as green).

To use specific examples: Starbucks and Ben and Jerry’s might not know that they’re missing out on our money. They might assume that they can get no more business and just shrug at the spare capacity. They might not know that cyclists get up at the crack of dawn to ride the Mount Vernon Trail, and they usually want a cup of coffee first thing, when the streets are quiet and there are few customers. Then, on returning, nothing hits the spot more than ice cream.

But if we can’t park our bikes somewhere safe, we’ll just take that business elsewhere. Turns out elsewhere is by the Dairy Godmother and St. Elmo’s with their bike-parking corral, right there in plain sight.

Speaking for myself, I’d just like some variety. If not the foot of King Street, then I put it to the other merchants of Alexandria. Who wants my money? All it will cost you is some lollipop posts or U-frame bike parking. Cheap stuff.

– Daniel Mehaffey